MnM

Chuck Spinney is at it again. This time, he unwraps what might well be the strategy behind Obama's remarkable election victory (although I did hear a Faux News commentator yesterday wondering why he only won by such a narrow popular vote margin---had his strategy been mindless, he suggested, he should have won by a much greater margin...). Anyway, this explanation (the one linked to below, not the Faux commentator's) is interesting, even if it isn't really explaining anything remarkable.

"The M&M or Motherhood and Mismatch Strategy was conceived by the American strategist, Col. John R. Boyd. The basic goal of an M&M strategy is to build support for and attract the uncommitted to your cause by framing a "motherhood" position -- i.e., a position no one can object to, like the mythical "motherhood, apple pie, and the American way" -- and then inviting your opponent in to repeatedly attack it and, in so doing, smash himself to pieces at the mental and the even more decisive moral level of conflict. Self-destruction will happen inevitably, if you can successfully induce your adversary into attacking your motherhood position in a way that exposes mismatches among the three poles of his moral triangle, defined by (1) What your opponent says he is; (2) What he really is as defined by his actions; and (3) the World he has to deal with. Whether consciously or not, I believe Obama has an intuitive feel for the moral leverage inherent in the M&M strategy and this enabled him to outmaneuver McCain and his campaign and bring them to the verge of mental and moral collapse. That Obama also did this to Hillary Clinton suggests it is no accident."

How Obama Won

I have inadvertently employed something like this strategy when introducing companies to the practice of ProjectCommunity. I claim that while teamwork is nice and even useful, it cannot meaningfully influence outcome without using it with a broader, ProjectCommunity mindset that considers everyone who can effect and everyone effected by the effort on equal us-ness with the core team. Those who deny this obvious (to me, anyway) fact, inevitably find their cordoned effort under the influence of some unconsidered, discounted constituency. And while this outcome might, from within the team trance, seem like evidence of bad luck, this bad luck and trouble becomes pretty much their only friend. Even those who concede, but continue to consider the community to be comprised of 'stakeholders', over time grow to appreciate what it feels like to be considered a vampire with stakeholders stalking them.

I'm also seeing this strategy used in what feels to me to be a destructive way, though I guess any strategy that succeeds in producing an outcome I don't support might be fairly characterized as destructive. The burgeoning 'sustainability movement,' which is rapidly creating a cadre of ideologues worthy of any mass movement, has taken the same motherhood and apple pie position that the Zero Growth movement occupied thirty years ago. Locally, the City has agreed to convene a sustainability committee. Who could oppose such a thing? Their first objective: To define what sustainability means here.

As near as I can tell, anyone successfully defining sustainability would say that it means continuing surprising change, since that's how the world seems to actually work. Instead, it seems to be widely interpreted as meaning 'retain what we like' and 'eliminate what we don't.' Since when has anyone successfully sustained an agenda like this? Further, I personally have survived long periods of conditions that should have done away with me, my teen-aged years not excepted. Yet here I am. Mysteriously. Even surprisingly.

Not to be cynical, but I keep running into anti-progressive attitudes traveling under the sustainability label. But that does sound cynical, doesn't it? I'm arguing against motherhood and apple pie, even though sustainability remains, as Spinney says, an empty vessel. I'm just beating myself to bits railing about it.

I was re-reading Jay Haley's remarkable essay The Power Tactics of Jesus Christ, and concluded that maybe he knew something about this strategy centuries before the candy ever appeared. He didn't challenge the orthodoxy, but claimed instead to represent a truer instantiation of it. He commanded no one to follow, but invited followers instead. How could anyone successfully challenge such high ground?


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